Mijn prachtige familie

18 04 2016

Today marks my parent’s 24th wedding anniversary.  I was 12 years old when my mother (and now) father got married.  It was a challenging time for me back then.  We were the Brady bunch of sorts.  My mother had two children (myself, age 12 and my sister, age 9) and my father had two children (my brother age 10 and my sister age 8).

Merging two families with young, near teen children is not easy.  One of the biggest challenges for me is not differentiating my brother and sister from my first sister.  When our families first came together, using the word ‘step’ to differentiate them from my Mother and Sister felt weird to me.  It was easy for me to just call and refer to my brother and sister as such.  But I couldn’t get past calling him anything other than Pete.  He wasn’t my dad (not meant in a mean way), but it felt disrespectful to call him step-dad.  There is a stigma that goes with the ‘step’ word; wicked step-parent.  He wasn’t wicked at all.

It was a struggling time for me; still dealing with issues from my mother’s divorce.  Not wanting to believe the reality of what was happening between me and the man I used to call my dad.  (This is a story for another time).  So here’s this new guy, trying his best to fit into the father role that I desperately needed.  At the time, it didn’t matter to me if he was there or not.  He was just some guy; who gave me a house to live in, clothes on my back, and food in my stomach.  A lot of food.  (Hey, I was a growing boy).  I’m sure at the time, I wasn’t very appreciative of all that he did for me.

I wasn’t perfect, by any means.  I’m sure it was difficult for him, trying to step into the parent role to a child that wasn’t his from birth.  I like to think my behavior was generally good, but I’m sure (okay, I know…in some cases) that I caused far more grief and pain than he or my mother would have liked to endure.

There is one thing, that for some reason sticks out to me after all these years.  I recall with great clarity, saying the phrase ‘my real dad’ to him.  At the time, I never gave any thought as to what I was saying.  There wasn’t any hidden meaning behind the phrase, it was just something that I said to differentiate them and I didn’t know how else to say it.  But now when I think about it…what an awful thing to say.  It was definitely not meant to be hurtful in any way, but it’s a memory that I am ashamed to have.

But he was always there, pointing me in the right direction.  Thinking back, I don’t recall them ever really telling me ‘You need to do this thing, this way’.  It was more of them telling me, here’s what could happen if you do this thing this way.  It’s up to you to decide to go that way.  More often than not, I went that way.  I look at my life now; where I’m at, what I’m doing.  I attribute a lot of where I am today because of their guidance.

It took a while, but eventually I started to refer to him as my dad and father. It’s still a bit strange to call him Dad in person, but maybe that’s just because I’ve never asked him if he cares.  Maybe I’ll do that.  I don’t know why now, 24 years later, I feel I can/should write about this.  Perhaps it’s because I have this blog established as somewhere to write my thoughts.

I don’t know why this turned into just a post about my Dad.  It was intended to be about both of my parents.  So to my mother, thank you for everything you have ever done for me.  Most, if not all of my childhood memories include you.

So as they both sit down this morning drinking their coffee, enjoying their retirement, I wish you both a happy anniversary.  I couldn’t ask for better parents. I love you both, and can’t wait until you are back up here to see us.

 

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The year of firsts

6 03 2016

IMG_9885 (1)

 

There are so many ‘firsts’ in life that you’ll never forget.  Your first kiss.  Your first love. Your first car.  You can look back through your life and the things you go to are generally happy things.

Today concludes my year of firsts.  There are plenty of happy things that happened to me this year.  My son was born.  We bought a new house.  A new car.  Had great movements in my career.  Lost 40 pounds and I’m the healthiest I’ve been since high school.  And yet, somehow all of those are overshadowed by the other firsts.  It has been 1 year today since my brother passed away.  This year of firsts, while included many great things, were very focused on his absence.

It was difficult the first few months.  Seemingly very random things would make me think of him.  As the months went by, I allowed myself to not feel guilty for turning the focus to my family.  My newborn son and daughter; neither had any idea as to what had happened and why I was sad all the time.  I was constantly beating myself up and feeling guilty for not keeping Ryan at the forefront.  But I realized that the first step to healing is to continue with your life.  Even now, that feels like a terrible thing to say.

One thing I realized is that, moving forward with my life does not mean leaving him completely in the past.  And that I don’t need to feel guilty for doing so.  I haven’t forgotten about him, not in the slightest.  But I allow myself to bring other things in my life forward.

I think about Ryan quite often.  Usually it’ll just be some random thing that reminds me of him.  I’ve come to the point where I can actually laugh while I’m thinking of him.  He was always just a happy and fun person.  I still get sad that I won’t be able to share it with him, but I am allowing myself to turn the thoughts into some sort of happy memory.

The holidays were the toughest for sure.  The first Thanksgiving.  The First Christmas.  It was a difficult time for my family.  It was difficult to get into the Christmas spirit.  I usually am really excited to Christmas to come around.  And while I still showed my excitement for my kid’s sake, it didn’t feel the same.

Will it get easier?  I don’t know.  I’ll always miss him; that will never change.  But I know that the year of firsts has passed.  The yearly anniversaries will always be difficult.  His birthday, Christmas, things like that.

Today, I hug my children and think of you.  I think of the great times that we had together.  I try not to think of all the things that you’ll miss.

I love you Ryan. I miss you.

 

Ryan2





A New Year

1 01 2016

I’ve been working on this post for 3 months. Writing random thoughts.  It’s all pretty much incomplete paragraphs; thoughts and memories of the last year.  And as I was reading it, I realized it was all about my brother.  Not that it’s a bad thing; he’s just very much on my mind.  See, today is not just New Year’s Eve.  Today is his birthday.

I had a long post about “firsts”.  All of them were the firsts that we had this year without Ryan.  Holidays.  Family birthdays.  Random get-togethers and vacations.  I was reviewing what I had written, and it was all sad.  And I started thinking, not everything this year has been bad.  Sure, this took front and center in what I think about with 2015.  But what about the good?  I had a son this year.  I’m making moves in my job that are amazing for my future career.  My best friend is cancer free.  We bought a new house and new car, and went on vacations.  I lost a bunch of weight and am the healthiest I’ve been in 5 years.  I got to really start the magic of Christmas for my own daughter.

I’ve always tried to live my life while not focusing on the bad things that happen or dwelling on the regrets that I may have.  Bad things always happen; find a way to deal with it and move on.  That doesn’t exactly apply when you lose a family member.  I miss my brother tremendously, and I always will.  And it has been very difficult to not have his passing at the front and center of every event that happens.

So I am not going to post all of those.  Perhaps some day in the future I will expand on what I had written and make them into separate posts.  For now, I am going to conclude and just say that 2015 was a good year.  My son was born, and watching him grow into his own personality has been so much fun.  And my daughter is such a great big sister, even as she continues to develop her independence.  My wife is an amazing person, whom without I would not have been able to accomplish so many things in the last 8 years.

So to you, all my friends and family that might read this, I hope that you will be able to find and remember the good things that have happened to you.  And if even for hour tonight, I hope you can focus on that.

I wish you all a happy new year.  The best to everyone in your endeavors and may the best of your today’s be the worst of your tomorrow’s.





Ship it! It = Me.

8 12 2015

I’ve been debating on posting this, but I finally decided that it is a moment in my life that I am comfortable talking about.

Nearly 18 months ago, I was part of the very large layoffs that happened at Microsoft.  Some 18,000 people were laid off in a single day, one of the largest ever at the company.  My time at Microsoft (both as a vendor and as an FTE) was an amazing experience, something that I wouldn’t trade anything for.  Some of the people that I met there have become very close friends and mentors to me.

While it is a difficult situation to go through for anyone, I chose not to let it define who I am.  A support group of sorts popped up which included a lot of people who were affected, all coming from different career paths within Microsoft.  I had a lot of friends outside of the company who offered help and advice, and it was greatly appreciated.  But there was something about being able to lean on complete strangers who would tell me what I needed to hear.  “It’s going to be okay”, “You’ll find something quick”.  Those were nice to hear from family and friends, but in all honesty it didn’t help me figure out what I needed to do.

“Your interview skills are okay, but you should improve this”.  “You tend to ramble when you’re talking about this subject.  Get to the point and move on.”  THOSE are the comments that proved to be the most valuable to me during that time.  I needed someone who didn’t care about making me feel warm and fuzzy; someone who would offer me the truth as long as I was willing to accept it.  With these strangers, we all had a common goal; to get back out in the workforce as soon as we could.   The technical whiteboard sessions, practice interviews, peer resume writing; all these sessions were put together with no formal company or firm.  Just a bunch of people who wanted to work together.

Now, after a year and a half I still talk with a lot of them.  Most have moved on to a new company.  Some went back to Microsoft.  Some decided it was just time to retire.  As more ‘waves’ of layoffs happened, new members were joining the group.  It was my opportunity to help the new folks who were shoved into this bad situation figure out how to move forward.  As the group grew, we wanted something that would really bind us as a group.  A Christmas ornament.  A picture frame.  A keychain.  Something that we could all have that united us as a large group of people who got through tough times together.

Microsoft has a thing called Ship-It awards.  Where you’re on a team that ships a product, you get this little sticker that you can put on your plaque.  I have one for the Xbox One launch, as well as Xbox Music and Video.  Someone in the group, initially as a joke, suggested maybe we could have a ship-it award for the laid off employees.  The idea took off.  A few iterations of the design and it was finally decided.

The Ex-it award.

exit

I have no animosity towards Microsoft or my management.  As I said, I still consider many of them my friends.  Business is business, and I understand that.  To me, this isn’t about reminding myself that I’m better off without Microsoft or as a ‘in your face’ jab at the company.  It’s about a group of strangers who came together to overcome a terrible situation.  It’s about being able to understand that I can’t expect everyone to feel sorry for me.  It’s about picking myself up and doing what I need to do to improve my own situation.

It’s my reminder that I can make it through anything.





Get what you want from life.

26 11 2015

As I pass my 1 year mark at my current job, I think back to how excited (and nervous) I was to start.  I was nervous because while the job was going to utilize skills that I had, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to really advance in the career path that I wanted.  I remember thinking to myself, I hope I’m not taking this job for the sake of working.  It had been 4 months since I had been laid off, and I was fully prepared to go through the holiday season without being employed.  Being only a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, I didn’t think anyone would be hiring this close to the end of the year.

So when I made it through the interviews and received (and accepted) the offer, I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to be unemployed during the holidays.  But I still had it in my head…is that why I’m taking this job?  Looking back, if I had been employed and looking I wouldn’t have accepted it.  It honestly wasn’t what I was looking for in a career.  It definitely utilized my current skills, and I would have the opportunity to expand on those skills, but it almost guaranteed that I wouldn’t be learning anything new.  Still, I shoved that away in my head and started my first day.

The first few months were great.  Great people, and the work wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I began expanding on some of the technologies that I knew already.  I have been very comfortable with SQL writing, and this job would take it to the next level.  But soon I started to ask myself if this is what I really want.  Usually the answer was ‘no’.

As the months went on, the work remained the same.  Here’s a new report.  Almost identical to the report we just released.  Same information, slightly formatted differently.  The frequency of the work was decreasing as well.  It’s not for the lack of work, but the discipline of the work timeline.  I am very used to an agile workflow.  2 week sprints, you’re accountable for your work.  If you’re falling behind, you let people know every day.  This team wasn’t doing that.  How much time do you need to develop this report?  2 weeks.  2 weeks pass, and nothing to test.  I ran into an issue, I need another week.  Repeat a couple times.  There were no real deadlines or a sense of urgency for these reports.  And this kept on, and it was really starting to affect my work ethic and made me feel bad about the work I was doing.

Our test team basically has two projects.  One of them is agile, the other is not.  Because of that, it makes it very difficult to merge the two projects.  So while I was on the reporting side, there was another tester that was on the product side.  A couple months ago, he told me that he was looking to transition into a business analyst role within the company.   I knew that I needed to ask my manager about it.  So I brought it up, saying that if his transition to that role went through, I at least wanted my name in the hat of possible people to fill that role.  It depended on how they wanted to fill that role, but I wanted him to know that I really would want to move over to that project, as it aligned more with what I want out of my career.

When they hired me, they picked me for a specific position.  I almost didn’t bring it up to him for that reason.  But then I thought, wouldn’t they want a worker who is happy with what they are doing?  If I have the opportunity to work on stuff that will make me feel better about my work, they will get a better quality worker.  Plus, the worst he could say is no.  But I knew I needed to ask because I didn’t want them to hire someone else, and then find out that I could have made that move.

My manager loved the idea.  He was happy that I brought it up and we made the transition happen.  This is my last week on the reporting project, as I’ve been helping the new QA person on that team get ramped up.  I’ve been doing some of the tasks for my new project over the last month, and I absolutely love what I’m doing now.  It has brought me back and reminded me why I truly love being a software tester.  The problem solving and being able to figure out what issues are happening.  I’ve been learning completely new things and even getting into the mobile world.

 

In short, I am happy.  Happy with my job.  Happy with the path that my career is now taking.  In all honesty, I may have began looking for something else soon, but I’m glad I stuck around. I now have the opportunities that I am looking for.  I took a situation that I was unhappy with, and found a path that would make me happy.  Perhaps it was luck that this position opened up.  But if it hadn’t, the path that would make me happy very well could have been finding a new job.

Everyone has to work.  You shouldn’t feel like you are stuck in a job though.  Find your path.  Be happy.





New workout plan

26 10 2015

I completed my first week of T25 Gamma and started the second week today.  The program is okay, but I don’t think it’s going to suit me in what I am looking for in a workout program.  I actually miss doing the cardio work, as I’ve found that I feel better during the day when I have a cardio workout. Having done p90x in the past (a few times), I know that it is one of the best programs if you’re looking to build muscle mass.  However, it does lack in the cardio department too.  Since I am now looking to not lose anymore weight, and gain some of the muscle back, I have decided to put together my own hybrid workout program combining P90X and Insanity Max.  This will give me the intense cardio that I want, but also bring in the weight lifting that I want.  I really wanted to be able to start this morning, but I couldn’t create my calendar until today.  So I made sure to do a weight day from T25, and I’ll just ‘officially’ start tomorrow.  I did a 16 week program, which puts my end date for this round at the Friday before Valentine’s Day.  However, there is a week in December when we’re in California so I might skip that week which would push me a week later.  If this program goes well, I might just repeat it again.  We’ll see how it goes.





The never-ending journey

16 10 2015

I’ve been through this before.  I’ve been at this spot more times that I probably should have been.  It begs the question; why?  Why have I reached this accomplishment so many times in the past.  It’s because there was always an end in sight.  I reached that end, and I moved on from the activity; never really understanding that there shouldn’t be an end.

Today was the last day of Insanity MAX 30.  It’s a 2 month exercise program that is full of some very intense cardio.  In the past, I have completed various workout programs like this.  I finished the last day and felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment in what I had completed.  Today though, I don’t get that feeling.

I think the difference is that I don’t want to stop.  Previously, I would have gone out and ate a giant burger as a celebration. (Perhaps I will still do that today).  And come Monday I would say to myself, now what.  I finished it, I don’t really want to do it again.  So now what.  Sleep in.  Eat more snacks.  And fall back into the same awful habits I had.  And in 2 years be right back where I was this last July.  The hardest part of this entire journey is the realization that it isn’t a journey.  It truly is about changing your lifestyle.  There isn’t a ‘1 more week left until I can eat all the carbs and sugar I want!’ anymore.  Granted, I will probably slowly start adding some of those snacks back into my life.  A bowl of ice cream, or a beer during the Seahawks game.

The key to this entire thing is staying active.  In my head, I don’t want to gain the weight back, and it scares me a little bit knowing that my current weight is probably not sustainable.  I will gain some weight back (especially since I am doing more of a weight lifting workout for the next 4 weeks), and I have to be okay with that.  I tell myself that nothing is changing.  I am going to continue eating the same meals I have been.  Changing up the workout a little bit to T25 Gamma, which has a focus on weightlifting instead of cardio.  But those ‘eat whatever you want’ demons are starting to surface again, and I worry that I will fall back into the same eating patterns.

The single most important factor to my success thus far has absolutely been my wife.  Without her determination, I would not have achieved these results so quickly.  The meal planning is probably the hardest part, something we have tried in the past and could not wrap our heads around.  This time though, we got it.  And it worked.  She is always finding ways to healthy alternatives.  Whether it be using zucchini or butternut squash as noodles in pasta and lasagna, or using Greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute.  She would set a bowl of food down for me, and say this meal is 300 calories.  It’s a giant meal!

I want to say this.  Body shaming is an awful thing to do.  I would not have considered myself obese by any stretch, but body shaming does not just happen to people who are overweight.  Everyone has a struggle with their body in some form that you know nothing about.  You don’t know what I went through.  You don’t know where I started.  I had someone comment to me, ‘you can eat more than carrots you know, you’re plenty skinny.  Stop eating so healthy, you’re making the rest of us look bad.’  Look, I don’t criticize you for eating what you eat (and I’m not going to here), and I expect that you won’t criticize me for eating what I eat.  Do you think I just went to sleep last night and all that weight went away?  I worked my ass off (quite literally) to get to this point.

Yes, I am probably under weight at the moment.  But that doesn’t mean I am going to suddenly eat a bowl of nacho cheese dip.  I worked hard to get to where I am.  Now, some adjustments will be made to go from weight loss mode to maintenance mode.  But I’m not going to revert my diet back just because you think I can suddenly eat whatever, whenever.  Sure, some people are naturally skinny, or can very easily lose weight.  But that’s not a norm.  People work really hard to lose weight, and they shouldn’t be discredited for their work just because they changed their eating lifestyle.  I will never offer my opinion on what you eat unless you ask for it.  Just because someone is skinny, doesn’t mean that they didn’t have their own struggles or work hard to get there.  And just because someone is over weight, doesn’t mean that they aren’t trying.  Everyone has their own way of dealing with this stuff, and it’s none of your business unless they bring you into it.

There isn’t a finish; that’s the key point I keep trying to tell myself.  Next Monday is just like any other Monday.  I finished one milestone.  Monday starts another one, which I will also complete.  And then start another.  I started this journey on July 6th.  15 weeks ago.  3.5 calendar months.  I started at 198.7 pounds.  Today I finished this program at 159.4 pounds.  That is a 39.3 pound weight loss.  I have been fluctuating around the 40 pounds mark all week.  Part of me wanted today to surpass that, but I know this is a great accomplishment regardless.  Next up is actually trying to gain some muscle back.  I know that will increase my weight, which is (mentally) something that I will have to deal with as it happens.  The next program, T-25 Gamma, is 4 weeks long and focuses more on weightlifting.  So I’ll re-evaluate my experience at that point and adjust as necessary.

Thanks for all the support so far from friends and family.  This isn’t just a journey about losing weight.  It’s a journey about changing my lifestyle.  I’ve been successful in losing a lot of weight, now the actual challenge begins in being able to maintain it.